I think those with traumatic pasts can heal but first they have to arrive at their own definition of healing.
What do we need to have happen in order to feel healed?
I don't want to forget what happened, that would be nullifying an important part of my life. I of course can't change what happened and I don't want to have positive feelings about the trauma. I don't want to give up my negative feelings--that would be invalidating myself, nor do I want to stifle those feelings with drugs or other artificial means. I feel what I feel and my feelings about what happened are human, normal and justified. (In fact a new study suggests that recalling a strong emotional link to traumatic events might actually prevent PTSD. Study of passengers from Air Transat near-disaster aids understanding of PTSD )
I'm not about to tell you what you should want in order to feel healed, but I will tell you what I wanted. What are the goals I used to measure my healing?
I consider myself healed because I have a successful career. I am able to develop and maintain strong interpersonal relations. The majority of my time is spent focused on the present and/or the future (not the past). I can remember and appreciate good things about the past. I realize without a doubt that the trauma is no longer happening to me and will not happen again and I behave as though that is true.
The past will never go away, the past changed me forever, in some good ways and in some bad. The past made me what I am today. The past hurt and always will. But I am healed because I live in the present and face the future. The well-being of others is important to me and is often in my thoughts. I am able, and more than willing, to put effort into establishing and maintaining relationships. I am contributing to my community and to my world in positive ways.
I am generally able to sleep at night, seldom have nightmares, usually eat properly, exercise, meditate and otherwise care for my physical self. I do not abuse drugs or alcohol and I successfully overcame my addiction to cigarettes.
I still cry about the past. I still get depressed and seek professional help for that. I still wish 'if only' or 'what if?". I have not forgotten the past and will never forgive. I understand some of what happened, but not all. However, my emotional commitment, my decisions, my thoughts and behaviours are overwhelmingly directed forward and outward. I am healed.
(I am a survivor of child abuse and posted a poem about that a while back: http://eileenschuh.blogspot.ca/2012/01/nursery-cat.html)
Find out how Katrina heals in my new release FIREWALLS: